Dec 13, 2010

[Movie] Monsters (2010)

Monsters (2010)Monster movies are in the same neighborhood of horror movies for me. And by that I mean that they're not exactly movies that I go out of my way to see since (1) I scare rather easily, (2) movies within these genres tend stress me out to no end. I'm kind of tightly wound that way, I suppose.

I think I only enjoy huge monster movies that involve equally powerful forces challenging them, especially of a mechanical nature. You know me - robots > horror and thus the presence of robotic protagonists tends to be a draw for me. Blame my love of Transformers for that, I suppose. I've been hooked on all things robotic ever since I can remember.

But I'm wandering - so sorry.

With monster movies, a lot of the focus is always on the organized response versus the hulking beasts that are terrorizing this city or that. The only time this got turned around was in the movie Cloverfield, when J.J. Abrams tried to follow the story from the perspective of the average person on the ground. This movie takes a similar tack, but still the writers were able to come up with a new spin on the concept.

Monsters is a 2010 British science fiction monster movie that was written and directed by Gareth Edwards.

The movie takes place in an alternate reality where a large section of Mexico is now a quarantined area. Inside the quarantine area roam massive alien creatures that developed in the area after a NASA deep-space probe that landed in the area. The movie begins on a night when a military convoy is attacked by one such creature. The ultimate fate of this group isn't clear but it does make for a striking beginning.

We are then brought to Mexico, following a photojournalist named Andrew (Scoot McNairy). He has been hired to bring back the daughter of his wealthy employer. Samantha (Whitney Able) is a pretty strong-spirited woman and the two don't immediately get along. However she doesn't have much of a choice with Andrew trying to bring her home while dealing with the challenge of being away from his son given how near his birthday is and of course Samantha herself. However his attempts to bring her back to the US don't go quite as planned and the two are forced to venture into the quarantine zone in order to get back to the US on foot.

The premise of the movie is pretty interesting, that much I have to admit. While it seems like it has echoes of District 9, this time around we have huge, theoretically non-sentient aliens to deal with instead of an oppressed humanoid species. And given the nature of the storytelling involved in this particular movie, you find yourself constantly wondering how things reached the point that they have. Why are there alien monsters in Mexico? How does the quarantine area work? How are people able to navigate the quarantine zone safely? And the questions go on and on.

The lead actors were okay, but nothing overly amazing. I was surprised to find out that they're actually husband and wife - for some reason that chemistry didn't quite come through on-screen. Given the movie relies on the two of them to carry the movie, I don't think they fully rose to the requirements demanded of them. Still, it's not like they were bad at what they were doing. They just weren't exceptional or extraordinary in any significant way.

Effects were understated but very well utilized. It wasn't as vague in terms of presenting the monsters as Cloverfield was - you get a lot of monster scenes here and there and you do get an appreciation for them. At the same time, the real value is in the scenes of destruction all around the quarantine zone. The discarded vessels and other buildings are done in a manner that is highly believable and overall quite realistic.

On the whole, I generally enjoyed the movie, although I felt it got lost in some parts. The set up was pretty good and the potential for the story was a lot better than most stuff you catch in theaters these days. I'm just not sure if the ending was sufficient - some of the bits leading up to the finale didn't quite make sense to me, although the ultimate ending was pretty decent.

Monsters is a good spin on the monster movie concept that presents a completely new angle given how they depicted things. It gets 3.5 large vessels nestled in the tops of trees out of a possible 5.
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